Ask a Pro November/December 2021

December 6th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Small Shops, Big Returns

By Mike Burke

Something funny happened to me a few years ago. A woman called asking for a price to get her car tinted. After some back and forth, she thanked me and said she would do some comparison shopping. Almost immediately, the phone rang again, and it was the same woman. She was confused when I answered, and hung up. The phone rang a third time. Finally, it dawned on her: “Wait, are all these stores you?”

Fast Food, Fast Tint

I am a huge proponent of small shops, and market share is one big reason why. You’re not going to drive 30 minutes for Chick-Fil-A if Wendy’s is next door. For most customers, tint is like fast food.

The multiple shop model is an easy growth strategy. You start with a small shop run by probably just you. Demand eventually outpaces your capacity. You hire another tinter, but you also need more space to handle multiple cars at once. Keeping everything in one place means you’re looking for a bigger building, coordinating leases, moving all your equipment and educating established customers on how to find your new location.

Along with a bigger space and more employees come new processes, more headaches and more risk.

Rinse, Repeat

In contrast, I grew Sun Stoppers by dialing in my small shop model and then duplicating it. I trained my employees to be not only tinters, but salespeople. When they were ready to take on the responsibility, I’d find a new space and set them up doing exactly what they’d already been doing. I keep my established locations and spread my market share by expanding geographically. Spreading out over multiple small locations also allows me to empower my employees by giving them more autonomy and ownership in the system.

A good friend of mine has a great company housed within an expansive facility. He has lots of employees, lots of processes … and lots of egos. He has things dialed in, and it works for him, but all those egos under one roof means he deals with drama.

With my model, I like to say I have one ego per shop. Each employee then has the freedom to build their independent team around the brand. How can I get the most out of my employees? By giving them the optimal environment to succeed. One of my member shops has been with me for only six months and has grown from one shop to three using my approach.

Flash Isn’t Everything

Don’t get caught up envying the flashy images on social media. The most successful people in the  world aren’t worried about social media—they’re too busy doing real stuff. One of my mentors who built his global business from the ground up owns three houses worth over $10 million each, a $60 million private jet and zero social media accounts.

Big shops with showrooms and high ceilings, tons of employees and 20 plus cars under one roof get attention, but they come with many drawbacks. Start small, stay  efficient, and prioritize profit margins and future growth. Invest in future tinters, not fancy cars. Quit living for the likes and start living for success.

Mike Burke has been in the window film industry for 33 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has more than 50 locations in 19 states, and offers residential and commercial tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection and ceramic coatings.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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